A Time for Reflection

Meredith Derian-Toth
(Plymouth, MI, USA)

As many of you may know, I have ten days left in Yerevan before I leave for Georgia.  At the risk of sounding redundant, my birthright experience in coming to a close and I have had a lot of time to reflect, naturally.

First and foremost, this experience is the best thing I could have done for myself at this point in my life.  Birthright Armenia is an opportunity for Armenians of all sorts (connected to an Armenian community-not connected, cooks the food-doesn’t know the food, speaks the language at home-didn’t know there was another language…) to come, live, learn, and immerse themselves in the Armenian culture.  I used to say “real Armenian culture” when comparing myself to native Armenians, but what does that really mean?  “Native Armenian culture?”  “The culture of those living in the country?”  But what about the Diaspora community?  I now understand that a huge part of the Armenian culture is its Diaspora.  I may have a serious bias- because I am part of this Diaspora community and would like to be considered part of the culture.  But, beyond my selfishness, I honestly believe that Armenia’s rich, devastating, and unique history is reflected in the culture, including its Diaspora. In my humble opinion- I have only been here for three months, I still have a lot to learn- it seems completely senseless to not take advantage of the opportunity birthright Armenia provides for its Diaspora.   (This is a whole different blog post- but I don’t understand how people can turn down an opportunity to live in another country, learn the language, the people, the culture- all provided with, a supportive community, comforts of home, new people… they make it so easy for you!) (Birthright did not give me any compensation for that little plug- although if they offer I will not turn them down…)  With all of that said, at the very least this experience is intrinsically eye opening, challenging and incredibly beneficial, however just like anything else, you get out of it what you put into it.  So if you do decide to come, make the most of it- whatever that means to you.

Secondly, the language.  Joseph Hakoopian can vouch for me when I say, I love learning and speaking the Armenian language.  I especially love making mistakes, not just because I get a good laugh, but I learn so much better.  My biggest fear of coming home is loosing what I have learned.  I want to speak the language, but with who?  If you notice a lonely girl, lurking around an Armenian church in Detroit, talking to herself about food in Armenian, come say hello- I will need someone to talk to.

3 months is not enough.  It just isn’t.  You go through an adjustment process.  The first month or so is constant stimulation, learning, figuring out what the hell is going on around you.  The second month is taking what you have learned and creating a community, life, and routine with it.  And the third month is living it. But once you start living the routine you don’t want to end, you want to build it, refine it, and learn more.  In my experience, if I could do birthright again I would do it for 3 months, then move into an apartment for the rest of the year- get a paying job, and build an actual home for myself.  It’s not too late for me to do this, and who knows what the fall has planned for me.

And lastly, I have been putting a lot of thought into this experience, how it is an incredibly unique experience that is impossible to replicate, how I want it to never end.  There are two ways I can deal with said emotion.  The first is to continue birthright, spend my savings, volunteer, etc… or the second is to accept it for what it is.  This experience will not last forever, and will never be replicated. It can’t.  But that is what makes it so unique, so special.  If I were able to come back to the same people, same family, same experiences, same laughs they would not be as sweet.

Disclaimer:  I am on a “birthright high” right now.  What is said here may or may not be a result from said high.  Although, if you have an opportunity to take advantage of this hallucinogen, do it. No peer pressure.

Re-posted from the author’s personal blog at The Lav of Armenia

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